Monday, 26 September 2011

Pumpkin spice Latte

I have to preface this post by admitting that I don't really like Starbucks coffee, or any of their other over sweetened, calorie bombs come to think of it. I've always found their coffee to have a burnt aftertaste. Luckily we have a great Kitchenaid espresso machine so we really don't need to go to Starbucks at all. I'm also probably one of the few people who has never had one of the pumpkin spiced lattes that everyone raves about as soon as the first autumn leaves start to fall. I have seen quite a few recipes on the internet for this lately though and so I thought I'd see if I could make something similar without the dairy and extremely high sugar content.
I had some leftover pumpkin which I pureed and left to cool, but you can also use canned pumpkin puree although you only need 3 tablespoons so you'll have to think up something to do with the remainder. (It freezes well!)

Ingredients (serves 2)
1 1/2 cups of coconut milk mixed with an additional 1/2 cup water to make a total of 2 cups
3 tablespoons of pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
1-2 tablespoon maple syrup
2 tablespoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1-2 shots espresso (about 1/4 cup) or 1/2 cup strong brewed coffee if you haven't got an espresso machine

Make the espresso or brewed coffee, and keep it hot, so you have it ready when the other ingredients are heated through.

Put the coconut milk/water, pumpkin puree and maple syrup in a saucepan and cook over medium heat until steaming, stir in the vanilla and pumpkin spice and transfer it to a blender. ( I used a stick blender)
 Pour into mugs and top with the hot coffee.

 I used a glass so you can see how it looks when it's done. 

Instead of whipped cream,  I topped mine with the top of a can of very cold coconut milk (It tastes a bit like cool whip, to make, just refrigerate a can of coconut milk for a few hours (Or 45 mins in the freezer, don't forget it!!) until it is very cold and you can scoop off the thick topping) however I've also seen recipes where it is topped with vanilla coconut milk ice cream. that DOES sound good, but sadly I didn't have the inclination to make ice cream today.
The verdict- Well it's actually not bad. Remember though, I have no experience to measure how it tastes against the real thing, but it is thick and hot and definitely autumnal tasting! It's quite rich so maybe a smaller coffee cup would be better and this is certainly a treat and not an everyday sort of drink. It would be a great drink to warm yourself with, after some extreme snow shoveling! Shame we have temps in the mid 70's today. Autumn....where have you gone?

Autumn salad with marinated pumpkin and Pfifferlingen

I ate a version of this salad at a restaurant in Stuttgart recently, all I can say is that the flavors are awesome and it is very filling despite having no meat. You can make this with any type of pumpkin but as I already had a Hokkaido pumpkin I used that. Cutting into one of those things is no mean feat. I see why some of you do Crossfit now, pumpkin cutting should definitely be part of a WOD!

The remaining pumpkin, I pureed to make something that is very popular this time of year. However, I made a much healthier version, can you guess what it is yet?

Ingredients (serves 2) 
1/2 of a Hokkaido pumpkin or 1/2 of a small pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped into 1/2'' chunks
150g Pfifferlinge Mushrooms (also called chanterelles)
50g white button mushrooms
1 garlic clove smashed with the back of a knife
salad greens of your choice
4 small tomatoes chopped into quarters
garden cress to garnish
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts.

Pumpkin marinade
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Kressi vinegar (or red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, use what you have)
pinch of salt

Basic Salad dressing  Recipe here

Cut and peel the pumpkin and steam it for about 5 -10 minutes, you want it to be just cooked but not soggy, it needs to have a little bite left to it.

You can also microwave it if you don't want to mess about with steaming. It shouldn't take too long as the pieces are cut quite small. Leave to cool.

Make up the marinade by combining the olive oil, vinegar and salt and pour over the cooked pumpkin, stir it gently and leave for a few minutes to allow the flavor to develop.

Place 1/4 cup hazelnuts into a microwave safe dish and cook for about 2-3 minutes, to toast.

Layer the salad greens in a bowl and sprinkle over the chopped tomatoes and cress. Heat a non stick frying pan with a little olive oil over medium high heat and add all the chopped mushrooms, toss frequently (about 5-8 minutes) until golden brown. During the last minute of cooking add the smashed garlic, this will impart a little flavor without overpowering the dish.

Add the marinated pumpkin to the salad greens and then top with the mushrooms, pour over the salad dressing and top with the toasted hazelnuts, sprinkle with a little more cress if you want it to look arty farty!! Enjoy

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Lamb steaks

Lamb is not as popular here as it is in the UK. It is very expensive and you can often only find it in the frozen food section. A while ago we came across a shoulder/leg joint which had been cut into steaks and then frozen. It looked interesting so we got it. I pulled it out of the freezer this morning and then wondered how I should cook them. As we've been having some lovely warm autumnal weather, I decided to cook it on the barbecue, low and slow. First I marinated it for an hour or so, in some olive oil, garlic, dried rosemary and basil leaves, salt and pepper.

Then we heated the grill and placed the steaks over the coals, let them brown and then turned down the heat. They were cooked for about 20-25 minutes, then transferred to a plate and left to rest for a few minutes. We served them with a Greek salad, and a little yogurt/garlic/cucumber sauce. Delicious.

Clean out the fridge lunch and my salad dressing recipe

The fridge is full to bursting, a trip to the market yesterday led to me buying more vegetables and fruit despite the salad drawer being full already. To make more room I made a 'clean out the fridge salad' for lunch. It's quite simple, just some salad leaves, tomatoes, spring onion and the end of a bit of cucumber. Add in some smoked fish, a piece of fresh salmon quickly cooked in the microwave and a few of my marinated olives. Top with some homemade dressing and you've got a hearty lunch in under 10 minutes.
Also added some leftover Red cabbage and carrot salad.
This is the recipe for my standby dressing, we have this or a variation of the basic recipe on all our salads, a little goes a long way and it keeps well in the fridge for a few days.

Ingredients (for one salad serves 4-6)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons of vinegar, I used Kressi but you can use red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon mixed herbs, I used chives, parsley and thyme, you can substitute this with dried herbs in the winter.
1 tablespoon homemade mayo, you can also use organic yogurt instead if you wish
1 tablespoon water

Put all ingredients in a jar, put on the lid and shake vigorously. Use immediately or refrigerate until needed.

The contents may separate if you let it sit for a while but a quick shake emulsifies it all again. This keeps well in the fridge and actually tastes better after a couple of hours if you leave the flavors to develop.

Feel free to add your own take to this, a little fresh mint to the mix will give a zingy taste, especially if you add some pomegranate seeds and feta to the salad. A tiny slice of red onion, left to soak in the dressing changes the flavor again, especially if you let it sit for an hour or so. Another variation is to add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a pinch of salt to the basic mix, this is great with Greek style salads especially those with big chunks of peppers in it.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Red cabbage and carrot salad

Another quick side dish, this one is based on the one featured on the amazing and inspiring Nomnom paleo's blog. This was really crunchy and tasty and makes you feel really healthy when you eat it!!
I even used Sarah Fragoso's recipe for Paleo Mayo and it was so simple I wondered why I'd never had the courage to make my own years ago.

Ingredients (Feeds 4)

1/2 medium sized red cabbage, finely chopped
2 grated carrots
1 finely chopped spring onion
small bunch of fresh cilantro/ coriander finely chopped
a few toasted hazelnuts for topping
salt and pepper

Stir all ingredients together (except for the hazelnuts which should be added just before serving) and refrigerate to allow the flavors to meld. In the meantime make up the dressing.

Carrot ginger dressing
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 chopped carrots
2 spring onions chopped
1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup Paleo mayonnaise

Combine all ingredients and blitz together in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour over salad and top with toasted hazelnuts. It is quite a strong flavored dressing but really goes well with the carrots and red cabbage. My picky, non vegetable liking, daughter even ate this and really liked it. Personally, I think it tastes better if left to meld the flavors overnight.

Quick side dishes

We had a nice day out in Stuttgart today, enjoying strolling along in the unusually sunny weather. One of the places we visited was the Saturday market where we perused the array of fresh fruit and vegetables on display. Generally we try to buy food that is in season and there was no shortage today.  Last weekend I had a friend over to stay and we ate at a restaurant close the to Karlsplatz flea market. I had an amazing salad with pfifferling mushrooms, marinated pumpkin and toasted hazelnuts, it was delicious and I hope to re create it here very soon, and that's why I bought some of the mushrooms. Here's a small selection of some of the other things we got, you can see just how fresh it is.

Pfifferling Mushrooms, fresh arugula and plum tomatoes

Super fresh lamb lettuce
 I also found a great bargain in Merz &Benzing, a Le Creuset 12" non stick wok, just perfect for stir fries and dishes where you need a lot of room such as pan fried sprouts or cabbage. Reduced from 135 to €99 it was a great deal and there are still a few left if anyone is interested.

 One of the things there is always a glut of this time of year, is courgettes/zucchini. This is a quick way to cook them and one of the things we had as a side dish with the chicken. It takes just 10 minutes to cook and goes with lots of meats. You can also add some thinly sliced bell peppers if you want to add even more flavor.

Ingredients (serves 4)
1 large courgette/ zucchini or 2-3 smaller ones, cut in half lengthways if they are large, then into 2-3mm slices.
1 medium onion cut into chunks
handful of small mushrooms cut into quarters or sliced if they are larger.
2 cloves garlic, peeled then smashed with the back of a knife to release the flavor.
olive or coconut oil for sauteing.
salt and pepper
some fresh thyme leaves stripped from the stalk.


Heat a non stick wok or pan over a medium high heat and add a little olive or coconut oil.
Add the chopped onion, courgettes and mushrooms and cook for 5 -10 minutes, turning frequently.

When the vegetables have softened and are starting to gently brown, add the garlic and continue to cook for a further minute or two, just long enough to impart some garlic flavor.

 Add salt and pepper to taste and some fresh thyme leaves. Serve immediately.

Weeknight chicken.

Quick and tasty, this is a weeknight favorite of ours. You can use skinless, boneless, chicken breasts but I find they dry out too quickly, so if you use these reduce the cooking time considerably. If you must  use breasts try and buy them on the bone. For this dish, I used a mixture of drumsticks and thighs and although I'm not usually a big fan of dark meat, these lend their flavor well to the lemony garlic juices.

Ingredients (Serves 4)
8 pieces of chicken with skin left on. (you can also cut up a whole chicken into 8 pieces)
olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half length ways
1 lemon, cut into quarters
salt and pepper
fresh thyme and sage leaves or a sprinkle of the same dried herbs.

Preheat the oven to 200C / 400F.  In a large roasting pan or baking dish drizzle a little olive oil into the bottom and sprinkle the chopped garlic and thyme and sage leaves over it. Squeeze two of the lemon pieces so the juice sits in the bottom of the pan

 Wash and pat dry chicken pieces then season generously with the salt and pepper. Place the chicken pieces into the pan and gently squeeze the remaining lemon quarters over the meat to add a nice citrus flavor to the skin.

Nestle the squeezed lemon quarters amongst the chicken and put into the oven for 45 minutes, or until the skin is brown, basting once with the cooking juices.

See quick and easy and very tasty.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Bacon Jam

So this is my version of Bacon Jam.  I love to watch the food network channel, then I try and take the recipes and adapt them for our healthier lifestyle. We recently watched a show, which featured trained chefs who work out of an airstream trailer in Washington State. They are called Skillet street Food  if you want to look them up. The food they cook looks amazing and the lines outside the trailer obviously testify to the quality and taste of their wares. One of the condiments they put on their burgers is something called Bacon Jam, but at $14 for 11 ounces it is a little too rich for my frugal tastes. The company lists some of the ingredients on their website but obviously it is a popular product and I completely understand their need to keep the recipe a closely guarded secret. So I turned my attentions to the world of the Internet where there are a few recipes for versions of bacon jam. I used some of these as a basic guide then added my own take on what I thought it should taste like. I cannot say if it resembles the Skillet Street version, as I’ve never tried it, however I thought my version tasted amazing and that works for me!! This recipe differs somewhat from the barbecue bacon jam sauce that went with the beef brisket as it has no beef stock in it, the barbecue version is definitely 'beefier', this is more 'bacony'


4 medium onions thinly sliced
4 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1 pound of smoked bacon, chopped
4 slices of smoked ham (I used Organic, smoked Black Forest ham)
1 cup, strong black coffee
¼ cup dark honey
¼ cup red wine vinegar or any dark vinegar, (I used brandy vinegar because that’s all I had!)
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
3/4  teaspoon Harissa powder or Harissa paste (or add more or less to taste) Start out with a little and add more if you want to ramp up the heat. It should be a gentle heat, not burning, as this will drown out the flavor of the other ingredients. If you don’t have this Moroccan spice you can substitute with ground chili powder)

In a heavy Dutch oven fry the bacon and smoked ham over medium to high heat until just browned, remove with a slotted spoon, turn the heat down to medium and add the onions and chopped garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes until translucent.

 Add the bacon back into the pan along with the strong black coffee, the dark honey, red wine vinegar and 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar. Stir well Add the harissa powder or paste (or chili powder) and turn down the heat to low. Simmer uncovered for 2-3 hours. Keep an eye on the pan, over the course of time the color will change from light,

to dark and caramelized. 
When it is dark in color and the liquid has somewhat reduced, turn up the heat and add a further 2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, watch the pan all the time now, over the next 5- 10 minutes, it will boil and thicken. As you drag a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pan, the liquid will be jammy and not cover the base of the pan immediately, this is how you know it's done. Take the pan off the heat, taste and add more spice if needed and then allow to cool for 20 minutes.

Blitz in a food processor 4 or 5 times, not too much though, you want it to still have some texture. Decant into jars and then refrigerate. keeps for at least a month in the fridge (if it lasts that long) This makes 4 x 250ml jars. Serve on burgers, over eggs or just eat it out of the jar with a spoon, yes it tastes that good!

Breakfast McMuffin Paleo style

This is a filling breakfast sandwich loosely based on the limp, tasteless, non paleo, ones served at the Golden arches. The basic 'bread' recipe is all over the internet in various guises and we've had fun this week adding things to it to make breakfast pancakes, pizza and even faux sandwiches! My Fake McMuffin was topped with an omelet and Nurnberger Bratwursts from Aldi which surprisingly have no bread fillers or artificial ingredients. Instead of the white, goopy, McD's sauce, I spread a generous portion of bacon jam on the 'bread' and it was perfect. You could also pop a nice poached or fried egg on top instead of an omelet, either way it's a change from plain old bacon and eggs. Another variation is to  chop up some smoked salmon and serve it with scrambled eggs and  sprinkle with fresh chives.

For the 'bread' base
1/3 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon olive oil (or oil of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
scant pinch of salt
a little chopped parsley or chives if you are feeling fancy

Toppings (Cook these first, the 'bread' only takes an additional minute to cook)
3, Nurnberg sausages split in half but not cut all the way through and cooked until brown
1 egg omelet with added diced bacon, bell peppers, onions mushrooms. Try and keep the omelet roughly the size of the bowl you are cooking the 'bread' in. This is purely for aesthetic reasons, we want this to look as good as it tastes.
 Bread base instructions
In a bowl mix the baking powder and salt with the almond flour.
Add the egg and oil and chopped herbs and stir until well combined. 

Take a microwaveable bowl and lightly oil the bottom of it, not too much just enough to prevent sticking. Tip the contents into the bowl and microwave on full power for 1 minute. 

Tip 'bread' out and flip over and microwave for a further ten seconds.

To serve, put bread on a plate, top with bacon jam

and then the omelet, 

artfully arrange the sausages and deftly top with a slice of tomato and if you are feeling pretentious, a sprig of parsley!!

Make your own almond flour
To make about 2 cups of flour, grind a 200g bag of almonds (with the skin on) in a food processor until finely ground, not too long though or you'll end up with almond butter! Sieve over a bowl, there will be about 2 tablespoons of 'big bits left over). Use these in salads for a bit of crunch.